The Challenge of Love
I have a friend who has a sign hanging in her kitchen for all to see. The sign reads: “Love is the answer to every question.”
When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, he quoted the Old Testament by saying, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” *
What would it look like if we could truly love God with our whole heart, mind, and soul, and love our neighbors as ourselves? I doubt that we would need the Ten Commandments*. Instead we would intuitively know and follow them.
I The first commandments are about loving God above all else. Since God is within all of us as the Bible says* then doesn’t it make sense that if we love God we will also love every other being? Francis of Assisi realized this when he hugged and kissed the man with leprosy; he was able to see Christ in that person.
The last commandments have to do with loving our neighbors as ourselves. And so, by embracing this love toward our neighbor we wouldn’t steal, lie, deceive, disrespect, hate, kill, hurt, envy, or slander others. To do any of these things would pull us away from love.
In order to truly love we need to love ourselves, and to realize that our very nature is love. We can only give love when we can see it within ourselves.
It is important to listen to what we are telling ourselves. I know that for many years whenever I made a mistake I would tell myself I was stupid. This would only make the situation worse. Who wants to look at their mistakes when they feel stupid or worse? We need to be kind to our self and accept that sometimes life is messy and we are going to make mistakes? We simply need to keep working to change habits that are detrimental to our wellbeing and that of others.
Mathew Kelly, who wrote over 30 books including The Seven Levels of Intimacy: The Art of Loving and the Joy of Being Loved encourages us to become the best version of ourselves. I like that! No competition with anyone else, we just need to be the best version of ourselves. To the extent that we can love and accept ourselves is the extent that we can love and accept others.
Anthony De Mello in his book The Way to Love has an interesting take on how to truly love, and how to be the best version of our selves. He writes, “Everywhere in the world people are in search of love, for everyone is convinced that love alone can save the world, love alone can make life meaningful and worth living. But how very few understand what love really is, and how it arises in the human heart… Love springs from awareness. It is only inasmuch as you see someone as he or she really is here and now and not as they are in your memory or your desire or in your imagination or projection that you can truly love them…”
When we love and accept ourselves we aren’t as likely to project our stuff onto others, or to try to find love outside of ourselves. Anthony De Mello goes on to talk about the two ingredients of love.
“Therefore the first act of love is to see this person or this object, this reality as it truly is. And this involves the enormous discipline of dropping your desires, your prejudices, your memories, your projections, your selective way of looking, a discipline so great that most people would rather plunge headlong into good actions and service than submit to the burning fire of this asceticism. When you set out to serve someone whom you have not taken the trouble to see, are you meeting that person’s need or your own? So the first ingredient to love is to really see the other.
The second ingredient is equally important to see yourself, to ruthlessly flash the light of awareness on your motives, your emotions, your needs, your dishonesty, your self-seeking, your tendency to control and manipulate. This means calling things by their name, no matter how painful the discovery and the consequences. If you achieve this kind of awareness of the other and yourself, you will know what love is. For you will have attained a mind and a heart that is alert, vigilant, clear, sensitive, a clarity of perception, a sensitivity that will draw out of you an accurate, appropriate response to every situation at every moment….” Whew, that says a lot!
Some of the components of love are; listening, kindness, empathy, compassion, integrity, grace, forgiveness, peace, will, discipline, sacrifice, service, non-attachment, fearlessness, looking within, following our intuition, expansion, humility, patience, goodness, authenticity, self-love, gratitude, joy and the ability to truly be present in the moment. This is why what Jesus called us to do is an incredible challenge and takes all of our attention. But it is worth the effort!
During the Christmas session we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. I believe He came into the world to teach us how to love with all of our heart, mind and soul. St. Francis of Assisi was the first to physically celebrate this beautiful event, and was able to follow the example that Christ set for all of us. He gave us this prayer that inspires us to love.
The prayer of St. Francis
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
May all of us know love in our mind, heart and soul this season and always.
Love and Peace,
*Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? Corinthians 3:16
*Picture is from Padre Pio Foundation of America
Mary Mohs LVN, MA, RYT,